Additional mechanics in a visual novel (earning money, calorie system, etc.) yes or no?

What do you think about mechanics that aren’t necessary for the story. I’m talking about like having to go to work to earn money, advanced calorie system that isn’t just “fattening food”, “normal food”, “diet food” but with actual numbers, having to learn skills using your time from the day, happiness meter of other characters, etc. Do you think these make the game better or make it too complicated having to think about all this stuff all the time? Or is there a sweet spot and if there is how would you describe it?

Additional mechanics (like having to go to work, very advanced calorie system etc.) in visual novels

  • I like them
  • Only if there’s not too much of them
  • I don’t like them
  • I don’t care either way

0 voters

5 Likes

For me I’m okay with mechanics like this existing as long as they actual serve a purpose. Generally that purpose is a stop gap or to ensure story/game progression happens at a certain flow or pace the dev wants the player to experience the game.

If you stack too many systems on top of each other it can feel grindy when not balanced right. Having a money system + romance/lust/relationship system + needing certain items for events or a person can feel grindy depending on how it’s implemented. And honestly they don’t all need to exist at the same time. If you are going for a sandbox style vn it probably makes sense to have certain elements that limit player progression. If it’s not a sandbox well maybe spending half the time of day at work doesn’t really make sense.

Something like the weighting game uses money and a weight system to limit how fast the player progresses through the game. Whole hog has a work cycle mixed with a weight system to limit player progression. These make sense to me as they are not overly grindy, easy to understand ways of limiting how fast a player can progress through a semi sandbox type VN.

So for me I would say I likely fall between “I like them” and “Only if there’s not too much of them” if they are in a semi sandbox/sandbox style vn. As I like them when it makes sense and they exist to help the flow of progression without feeling too grindy or overly cumbersome. A lot of your full sandbox vn’s get that way for me because they introduce way too many mechanics and systems that halt progression mixed with the more unconnected nature of a sandbox and this becomes off putting for me personally.

1 Like

Hate clothing mechanics unless you have them in pre-made sets that you can just select with one click. Actually any mechanic that requires more than a few clicks sucks because then it becomes a grind.

1 Like

The usefulness of these entirely depend on the story you are trying to tell, it’s depth, and how long you want things to last.

If they have no impact on the outcome then argueably they have no place in a VN, but these sort of things can make the setting feel more alive; it’s an illusionary choice thing. They are an opportunity to not just have the same dialogue play through over and over again, which is not great.

The thing that makes a VN different from a story is how player choices affect the outcome. If there are too few choices, it leaves the player wishing they’d just had a story (or, say, four stories) to read, as the actual process of reading just one line of dialogue and having to mash a button to advance is distracting. Though at the same time, too many choices is also distracting.

Where they do have an impact, money, work, and skills are obvious things to add to slow down or gate progression. A player choosing which skills to advance is also an opportunity to adapt the story to the kind of character they want to play. How much of this you do really depends where you sit on the RPG vs. click-to-fat spectrum.

Food is one of those places where even an illusionary choice can be good. Some will be happy with a diet of only ever pizza, others will want more choice because they actually enjoy different foods (or want their character to eat stuff they personally would like), even if the in-game effect is the same. If the effect is only slightly different most won’t notice, but some will, and obviously with a bunch of game devs here, some will look at your code, some will min-max stuff.

With any of these mechanisms, you really need to signpost what effect they have. There are players who will always choose the fatter-faster option, and miss any subtlety you’ve included unless you make it clear that the fatter-slower options also have benefits.

Of course any choice you add is always more work, even if it is just for flavour. Some things can just be a point of pride for the developer though. If you get a kick out of coding more complex stuff, just do it.

3 Likes

Balancing additional mechanics is very important. One of the biggest pitfalls I constantly see in these games are new developers trying to cram way too much into their first game.

Overall, gameplay mechanics are needed in some doses to prevent people from clicking through your entire game in 30 seconds. You need the gameplay to create a bit of buffer between sequences. But sometimes the additional effort needed can be wayyy too intense. Like if I need to take into consideration actual calorie counting or steps taken or there are way too many expenses to balance versus your income, it gets extremely tedious and I find myself wanting to just give up rather than click through all the monotony.

A few ways to address that (if you must have those mechanics) is to add in little “micro” rewards to completing them. Like give us additional descriptions or what-not whenever you perform a task. Or have secret scenes that are only accessible by doing a specific side task you’d otherwise ignore. If you have a clothes size mechanic where you constantly need to buy new clothes, at least give the player some descriptions or dialogue that make it worth it.

All those mechanics described in the OP are things more in common with a simulation game. If you want to do both, that’s cool, but sim games have different gameplay and design requirements due to being far more open gameplay-wise. Unless those extra variables change the narrative in meaningful ways depending on what particular combinations are in play, then they’re just window-dressing that draws dev time from the core gameplay.

The best example of this in practise is the UI stat windows in Forks, where you can see a weight graph and other gubbins but since you can’t interact with those values at all, it isn’t part of the gameplay whatsoever, apart from helping the player remember things or better imagine/visualise the PC’s journey.

I personally love sim games with narratives more than VN games since I like having higher interactivity, but I would rather a good, well-designed game to either.